By Peter Odili
LAGOS—A fisherman, arrested alongside nine others for illegal sand mining at Iyagbe community in Amuwo Odofin Local Government Area of Lagos State, has blamed his action on scarcity of fish in the river.
Men of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, during a joint operation with officials of the Ministry of Mines and Steel, last Friday, arrested the suspects for illegal mining.
The suspects, Afeez Idris, John Okon, Dare Bode, Bethel Gabriel, Bashir Sulaimon, Adekunle Akinbami, Jamiu Jinadu, Amos Adeyemi and Alaba George, were paraded yesterday at the Corp’s Lagos Command in Ikeja.
However, one of them, Fagbeyi Festus, said he was forced to join the illegal act after toiling in the river for several days without a catch.
According to him, “I am a fisher man. But recently, it has been difficult to catch a fish, as they are scarce in the river.
“I was tempted to join illegal mining to be able to feed my family. I saw it as a normal job. I never knew it was illegal until I was arrested.
“I only gave me my boat to them on hire and collect N2,000 per trip.”
Others, however, justified their action, claiming they were working for a company.
According to Adekunle Akinbabi, “we were going about our legal work when the officials came in two boats and arrested us.
“The arrest is unlawful because I work for Marina Dredger. I am surprised to hear that our operation is illegal because I have been working for the company for two years now and they pay me N35,000 per month.”
But the state’s Corps Commandant, Tajudeen Balogun, insisted that they were engaged in an illegal act, saying that the corps would continue to liaise with the ministry to clamp down on illegal miners in the state.
He said: “The suspects engage in illegal mining as against the rules and regulations of the Ministry of Mines and Steel.
“They were involved in the excavation of sand without having the necessary papers. Four pieces of motor batteries, one speed boat engine and one life jacket were recovered at the scene.”
Representative of the ministry, Mr. Olugbenga Ajayi, lamented that the state government had lost revenue worth millions of naira due to illegal mining, informing that the raid would continue until the illegal practice was curbed.